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Have you ever had your day take a completely different turn than you anticipated?  Mine certainly did, and it all started with a discovery behind the lilac vine.


My day was off to a great start.  I didn’t have any appointments or looming writing deadlines.  Couple that with a weather forecast in the 70’s, I decided to spend a few hours working in the garden.

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae) back in February.
 
One of the things that I needed to do was to prune back my purple lilac vines now that they were finished flowering.  They just needed a little light pruning to keep them from growing into my new lemon tree.
 
While I was pruning the vines, my little dog, Tobey, was trying desperately to get underneath one of the vines.  I assumed that it was a lizard, but I couldn’t call him off.
 
 
Now, Tobey, is our little rescue dog who thinks that he is big and tough, but truth be told, he’s not.  But, when I had to carry him inside because he wouldn’t leave the vine alone, I suspected that there might be something else going on.
 
 
I slowly approached the vine and heard something growl.  Concerned that there may be an injured animal, I slowly parted the leaves, and a cat ran out and jumped over the fence.
 
At this point, I assumed that it was a feral cat and that the problem was solved. 
 
But, I heard some rustling sounds and thought that I could see some movement in the dark confines of the vine’s branches.  So, I ran inside to grab a flashlight so that I could see better.  The problem was, that while we had plenty of flashlights, all their batteries were dead.
So, I decided to use the flashlight on my cell phone to see what was making the sounds at the base of the vine.
 
I slowly parted the leaves and saw what looked like little rats.
 
 
But, closer examination showed them to be newly born kittens.
 
 
I could hardly believe it!
 
 
They were just darling, and I tried to count how many there were.  I think that there were four, but it might have been three.
 
 
I went back inside so the mama cat could come back.  She hopped to the top of the wall and waited to be sure that there weren’t any humans or dogs nearby before climbing down and disappearing into the vines.
 
 
So what will we do?  
 
I talked to my sister who has worked with feral cats in the past.  It turns out they are incredibly self-sufficient.  We’ll probably wait until the kittens are weaned and then trap the mother and get her spayed and then re-release her.
 
As for now, I need to break the news about the furry bundles behind the vines to my husband (who sleeps during the day) and the kids once they come home after school.  
 
 
In the meantime, the dogs have been banished to the side yard for the time being, much to their dismay…
 

What has your winter been like?


Has it been unusually cold or warm?  If you live in the Southwest, you have undoubtedly experienced a warmer then normal winter.  


As a result, many plants that are usually dormant in winter, are green and blooming even though it is still technically February.


I started wearing sandals 2 weeks ago, but I still haven’t broken out my shorts yet.  


Last week, I showed you my edible garden, (also known as a kitchen garden), which is located on the side of our house.


Today, I wanted to show you a peek at what is happening in the back garden during this warm winter.


This is one part of the back garden.  

This was my first vegetable garden.  Because this garden is close to the house, I like to plant vegetables that are harvested frequently such as leaf lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.  

To the right, you can see my pink trumpet vine.  Behind is a hollyhock getting ready to flower.
Against the wall is purple lilac vine in full bloom and peeking through the slats of the fence are nasturtium leaves.



I have two large rose bushes and the ‘Abraham Darby’ rose bush has a few lovely blooms.  You may notice that this rose has a rather old-fashioned appearance.  This is one of many David Austin shrub roses.

After growing 40 hybrid tea roses in the garden of our first house, I have found that I like shrub roses.  They are easier to take care of (need less pruning) and are very fragrant.


The pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana) growing up against the pillar of my patio has beautiful, pink flowers.  

Normally, it suffers some frost damage during the winter, but during this warm winter, I have had pink flowers all winter long.  The flowers normally show up in spring and fall and are truly stunning.

I went out into the garden and cut the flowers for a lovely bouquet yesterday.

This plant grows quickly and can be grown as either a vine or a sprawling shrub.


Another plant that usually shuts down for winter is coral fountain (Rusellia equisetiformis).  I love the arching branches of this perennial and its orange/red blossoms.


One plant that still looks like winter, is my bougainvillea.

A few days ago, I asked you on my facebook page if you love or hate bougainvillea.  I had an overwhelming response with most of you saying that you liked it.

I have two bougainvillea.  I used to have more, but while I love the beauty of bougainvillea, I don’t particularly like to prune them, so two words for me.


The blue sky is really the perfect backdrop for the orange, tubular flowers of orange jubilee (Tecoma x Orange Jubilee).  

For those who want a tall shrub that grows quickly, then orange jubilee is a great choice.

I recommend using it against a bare wall or to screen out pool equipment.

In fact, I visited a client who used orange jubilee as ‘green curtains‘ for her home.


Right now, my purple lilac vine (Hardenbergia violaceae) has taken center stage in the back garden.

Growing up my south-facing wall, they burst forth in a profusion of purple blooms every February and last into March.

The whiskey barrel planter is a holding area where I have planted my extra plants.  I’m not sure what I will do with it later.


In addition to growing purple lilac vine up walls, I also like to grow it as a groundcover too.  

*This vine is easy to find in nurseries in winter and spring, when they are in flower.  However, you can have a hard time finding it in summer and fall.  So if you want one, get it now.

Behind my purple lilac groundcover vine, I have red bird-of-paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) growing.  But,  because it is dormant in winter, it isn’t much to look at right now – but I’ll show you how lovely they are this summer.


Hollyhocks have a special place in my garden.  I love these old-fashioned flowers and their flowers are truly stunning in spring (they flower in the summer in cooler climates).

They self-seed and come up every year for me.  In a month, the flowers will start to burst forth and I can hardly wait.

The hollyhocks are located next to my smaller vegetable garden and receive enough water from the garden without me having to give them supplemental water.


Another old-fashioned favorite flower are nasturtiums.  These flowers have a place inside of all of my vegetable gardens.

Not only are they beautiful, nasturtiums also repel bad bugs from bothering my vegetables.  Another bonus is that their leaves and flowers are edible.

The bloom in late winter and through spring.  I let them dry up in summer before pulling them out.  They do drop some seeds, so I always have new ones coming up the next year in the garden.


I have several pots in front of my smaller vegetable garden.  In them, I plant a combination of vegetables and flowers, including bacopa, which trails over the edges of pots.


There are carrots and leaf lettuce growing in my second vegetable garden.

  I step outside into the garden whenever I need a few carrots for dinner and they taste so delicious.


In the same garden, I am growing celery for the first time.  I must say, that I am quite impressed at how well it is growing and can’t wait to taste it.

Last week, I mentioned showing you a part of my garden that I have NEVER shown anyone.

This is my side yard – NOT a garden…


This is the space where we store garden equipment, trash cans and our garden shed.  I also have my compost bin in this area.  

You can see only half of the side yard in this photo, but you aren’t missing anything by not seeing the rest.

Another purple lilac vine grows along the fence, which hides part of the side yard and a large ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde provides welcome shade.

Our second bougainvillea is located along the wall.  It is never watered and it has been 3 years since it has been pruned.  As you can see, it does just fine being ignored.

And so, I hope you have enjoyed peeking into parts of my back garden.  Of course, I haven’t shown it all to you – just the parts that are blooming.

In a few months, I will show the other areas when they are in bloom.

*******************

So, what is blooming in your garden this month?

Do you have a favorite winter/spring blooming plant?


I love using vines in the garden.


I have pink bower vine growing in my entry, purple lilac vine growing up the walls in my back garden and pink trumpet vine by my vegetable garden.


But, did you know that you can grow some vines as a groundcover?

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)

Years ago, I started using purple lilac vines as groundcovers in the feature areas along golf courses.


I was surprised at how well they did.  We pruned them back once they were finished flowering and then a little if needed.

Eleven years later, they are still growing along the golf course and look great.
Purple lilac vine is my favorite vine.  The reasons are that they bloom in February and have beautiful, green leaves throughout the entire year.  They do need a trellis for support if growing along a wall.

Unlike their common name, however, they don’t smell like lilacs.  



Even when not in flower, their bright green foliage adds beauty and a visually cooling element to the landscape.

**When purchasing vines, I recommend buying them during their bloom season because they aren’t always stocked in the nursery when they aren’t in flower.

A word of caution when growing vines.  Some vines can become invasive – particularly in humid areas with mild winters.  However, this is rarely a problem in the desert Southwest because of our arid climate.

Have you experienced a warmer then normal winter this year?

I certainly have, although I’m not complaining because my garden loves it.  I took a walk around the garden and was so pleased to see quite a few plants blooming….

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)
My purple lilac vine blooms this time every year, which makes it a great vine for the garden.  The foliage is evergreen in my zone 9a garden through out the year, which is also a plus.
It can be hard to find this flowering vine in the nursery later in the year.  So, grab it now if you want one.
Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)
 
Firecracker penstemon is my favorite plant.  I starts blooming in January and goes until May.  Hummingbirds love it too!
Pink Beauty (Eremophila laanii)
My pink beauty shrub has grown tall 8 ft.), which I love because it covers an expanse of bare wall in the garden.  This Australian native is evergreen in my garden.
Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)

This is my second favorite plant.  Valentine flowers from December through May in my garden, with the peak bloom arriving on Valentine’s Day!  Hardy to zone 8.

Purple Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)

Normally, my purple trailing lantana is brown and crispy from frost – but not this year.  Butterflies just love this plant.
Pink Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana)
My pink trumpet vine blooms next to my vegetable garden.  I just love this plant too!

How about you?  Do you have anything blooming in your garden this month?

I find joy in the simple things and that includes my garden as well.

Yesterday, as I was preparing for my daughter’s 12th birthday party, I realized that I wanted to have a vase full of flowers to decorate the table.  I had no time to go to the store, so I ran outside and clipped some blooms from my flowering shrubs and one of my vines.

 
The flowers of Desert Senna, Globe Mallow and Purple Lilac Vine.
Although, there were not too many plants blooming, I was happy to have found three types of flowers that would look nice together in a bouquet.
Yes, my bouquet was simple and decidedly un-formal, but that describes me perfectly.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to bring my blooming garden inside.
And so…I plan to create a simple bouquet from the flowers of my garden each month.  I am looking forward to seeing how my bouquets will change as my garden changes through the months.

Anyone care to join me?  Even in winter, small branches from a flowering fruit tree or witch hazel would be beautiful.

 

Well, I can’t believe that this is my 100th blog post and that some of you are still reading my blog…. ;^)

I have enjoyed meeting so many of my fellow gardeners and those who want to learn how to garden.  I have met people not just from Arizona, but around the country and all over the world.  It just blows my mind how many of us there are, who love to garden and visit beautiful gardens.

The day after I started my blog, I joined Blotanical, which has been such a wonderful place to belong.  I have met many fellow gardeners and have visited their beautiful gardens through their blogs.  I highly encourage those of you who have not visited, to stop by Blotanical…a whole new world awaits you.

In honor of my 100th post, I would like to share with you one of my favorite vines….

 
This is one of six Purple Lilac Vines (Hardenbergia violaceae) that I have in my garden.   
 
You can see why it is called Purple Lilac Vine.  The flowers mimic lilacs, but have no fragrance.  They flower in February, when there are few other flowers in the garden.
It does require a trellis or other type of support to climb up against a wall.  

 
Today, when I went outdoors to take these pictures, the bees were happily buzzing about the flowers, greedily gathering pollen.
There is nothing not to love about this vine.  It does not suffer from frost damage in my zone 8b and so is evergreen.  It handles the heat very well, has no thorns and is absolutely beautiful.
 

Long ago….okay about 10 years ago, I planted the vines as a groundcover along the golf course and they worked so well, that I bought some to grow as groundcovers in my own garden.

 
Even when out of flower, they are just beautiful.  They need no special attention.  I do not fertilize them and only prune them every couple of years or so.
And so, this is my type of plant….low-maintenance and beautiful!

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and letting me know what you think in your comments.  I am excited to see what the next 100 posts bring!